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List of protected grasslands of North America facts for kids

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The protected grasslands of North America consist of prairies, with a dominant vegetation type of herbaceous plants like grasses, sedges, and other prairie plants, rather than woody vegetation like trees. This ecosystem was generally dominant within the Interior Plains of central North America but was also present elsewhere. The protected areas include public nature reserves managed by American, Canadian and Mexican wildlife management agencies, Native American tribes and Canadian First Nations, state wildlife management agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private nature reserves.

The expanses of grass once sustained migrations of an estimated 30 to 60 million American bison which maintained grazing pressure as a keystone species. Grazing is important to soil, vegetation and overall ecological balance. The indigenous peoples of the Plains occupied the land, hunting bison and pronghorn. The expansion of the United States onto the frontier decimated the population of the indigenous people and the bison. The tallgrass prairie, with moderate rainfall and rich soils, were ideally suited to agriculture so it became a productive grain-growing region. The tallgrass prairie ecosystem covered some 170 million acres (690,000 km2) of North America but the plowing to plant crops destroyed the natural habitat. Less than 4 percent of the prairie is left according to most estimates. Besides agriculture, much of the shortgrass prairie became grazing land for domestic livestock. Short grasslands occur in semi-arid climates while tall grasslands are in areas of higher rainfall.

Generally speaking, these regions are devoid of trees, except for riparian or gallery forests associated with streams and rivers. Although much of the grasslands are in the Great Plains ecoregion, protected grasslands can be found in other areas of Canada, Mexico and the United States. Studies estimated in 2018 that grasslands in the U.S were being lost at a rate of more than one-million-acre per year (0.40×10^6 ha). Bison occupy less than 1% of their historical range with fewer than 20,000 bison in conservation herds on public, tribal or private protected lands as listed here. The roughly 500,000 animals that are raised for commercial purposes are not included unless the entity is actively engaged in conservation efforts.

Protected areas with bison herds

Name Location Operator Herd size
American Prairie Reserve Montana American Prairie Foundation 800+
Antelope Island State Park Utah Utah State Parks 200
Badlands National Park South Dakota National Park Service 1000
Banff National Park Alberta Parks Canada 36
Bear Butte State Park South Dakota South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks small
Bear River State Park Wyoming Wyoming Division of State Parks and Historic Sites 10
Blue Mounds State Park Minnesota Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 100
Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Iowa The Nature Conservancy 200
Caprock Canyons State Park Texas Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 150
Chickasaw National Recreation Area Oklahoma National Park Service 3
Crane Trust Nebraska Crane Trust 50+
Cross Ranch Nature Preserve North Dakota The Nature Conservancy 200
Custer State Park South Dakota South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks 1500
Daniels Park Colorado City and County of Denver 30
Elk Island National Park Alberta Parks Canada 315
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Illinois U.S. Department of Energy 28
Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge Nebraska U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 350
Fort Peck Indian Reservation Montana Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes 400
Fort Robinson State Park Nebraska Nebraska Game and Parks Commission 150
Genesee Park Colorado City and County of Denver 33
Grand Teton National Park Wyoming National Park Service 1000
Grasslands National Park Saskatchewan Parks Canada 300
Hay-Zama Lakes Wildland Park Alberta Alberta Parks 400
Henry Mountains Utah Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Bureau of Land Management 400
Hot Springs State Park Wyoming Wyoming Division of State Parks and Historic Sites 11
Innoko National Wildlife Refuge Alaska U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 94
Janos Biosphere Reserve Chihuahua Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources 138
Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Oklahoma The Nature Conservancy 2500
Kankakee Sands Indiana The Nature Conservancy small
Konza Prairie Biological Station Kansas The Nature Conservancy, Kansas State University 300
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area Kentucky U.S. Forest Service 50
Maderas del Carmen Coahuila Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources 19
Maxwell Wildlife Refuge Kansas Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks 200
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Illinois U.S. Forest Service 50
Minneopa State Park Minnesota Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 30
Nachusa Grasslands Illinois The Nature Conservancy 100
National Bison Range Montana U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service transferring to Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes 500
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge Iowa U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 50
Prairie State Park Missouri Missouri Department of Natural Resources small
Prince Albert National Park Saskatchewan Parks Canada 400
Riding Mountain National Park Manitoba Parks Canada 40
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Colorado U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 150
Sandhill Wildlife Area Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 15
Sandsage Bison Range & Wildlife Area Kansas Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks 45
Soapstone Prairie/Red Mountain Colorado City of Fort Collins and Larimer County 100
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Kansas The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service small
Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Dakota National Park Service 800
Vermejo Park Ranch New Mexico and Colorado Ted Turner 1200
Wolakota Buffalo Range South Dakota Rosebud Economic Development Corporation 100
Wanuskewin Heritage Park Saskatchewan Wanuskewin Heritage Park Authority 12
White Horse Hill National Game Preserve North Dakota U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 20
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Oklahoma U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 650
Wind Cave National Park South Dakota National Park Service 400
Wood Buffalo National Park Alberta and Northwest Territories Parks Canada 5000+
Yellowstone National Park Idaho, Montana, Wyoming National Park Service 4800
Commercial herds are not included. Listed herds remove excess bison on a regular basis which may be slaughtered for commercial purposes.

Other protected areas

Name Location Operator
Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge Oregon U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Big Basin Prairie Preserve Kansas Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
Black Kettle National Grassland Texas U.S. Forest Service
Bonham State Park Texas Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Buena Vista Wildlife Area Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge Arizona U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Buffalo Gap National Grassland South Dakota U.S. Forest Service
Carrizo Plain National Monument California U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Catoosa Wildlife Management Area Tennessee Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
Cayler Prairie State Preserve Iowa Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Cimarron National Grassland Kansas U.S. Forest Service
Clymer Meadow Preserve Texas The Nature Conservancy
Comanche National Grassland Colorado U.S. Forest Service
Conrad Savanna Nature Preserve Indiana Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Crooked River National Grassland Oregon U.S. Forest Service
Crow-Hassan Park Reserve Minnesota Three Rivers Park District
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park Alberta, Saskatchewan Alberta Environment and Parks and Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport (Saskatchewan)
Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge Iowa, Wisconsin U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Dunbar Cave State Park Tennessee Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Elk Cove Meadow Oregon U.S. Forest Service
Fort Pierre National Grassland South Dakota U.S. Forest Service
Gaviota State Park California California Department of Parks and Recreation
Gensburg-Markham Prairie Illinois The Nature Conservancy, Northeastern Illinois University,
the Natural Land Institute
Gitchie Manitou State Preserve Iowa Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Golden Prairie Missouri Missouri Prairie Foundation
Grand River National Grassland South Dakota U.S. Forest Service
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Colorado National Park Service
Great Valley Grasslands State Park California California Department of Parks and Recreation
Hayden Prairie State Preserve Iowa Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Homestead National Historical Park Nebraska National Park Service
Hoosier Prairie State Nature Preserve Indiana National Park Service
Kingston Prairie Preserve Oregon Greenbelt Land Trust
Kiowa National Grassland New Mexico U.S. Forest Service
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park Florida Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Las Cienegas National Conservation Area Arizona U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge Montana U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Lyndon B. Johnson National Grassland Texas U.S. Forest Service
McClellan Creek National Grassland Texas U.S. Forest Service
Mead Wildlife Area Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Missimer Wildflower Preserve California Land Trust of Napa County
Oglala National Grassland Nebraska U.S. Forest Service
Ojibway Prairie Complex Ontario City of Windsor, Ontario Parks
Pawnee National Grassland Colorado U.S. Forest Service
Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge North Carolina U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site Colorado U.S. Army
Point Reyes National Seashore California National Park Service
Rita Blanca National Grassland Texas U.S. Forest Service
Rocky Prairie Washington
Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge Oklahoma U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex California U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Spirit Mound Historic Prairie South Dakota South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks
Stone State Park Iowa Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Turkey River Mounds State Preserve Iowa Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Willamette Floodplain Oregon U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Whorehouse Meadow Oregon U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Zumwalt Prairie Oregon The Nature Conservancy
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List of protected grasslands of North America Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.